The RSPCA is braced for a surge of abandoned and neglected animals after pet ownership soared during lockdown.

Last December, the RSPCA still received one call every minute, one report of an abandoned animal every hour, and took 70 rescue animals into RSPCA care every day - despite Wales and England having strict restrictions in place.

During the pandemic, pet ownership surged with estimates of more than 3.2million people taking on new pets.

With the return to work, the end of furlough and the rise in prices and energy bills, the RSPCA is worried the increased stress and pressures will see a rise in abandonment, neglect and abuse of animals.

In Wales, there were 180 reports of animals being abandoned last winter - including 53 in December. 

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Dermot Murphy, who heads the RSPCA frontline rescue teams, said officers will be saving animals across Wales and England throughout the festive season.

“Our frontline rescue teams are braced for the worst this Christmas," he said.

"We usually see two types of pet abandonment at Christmas and both are heartbreaking. 

“Every year we get reports of people leaving their pets while they visit family and friends.

"This year is a four day holiday and many people will want to make-up for not being able to see family and friends so some animals will be left for days on their own to fend for themselves.

“It’s not acceptable to simply leave extra food and water for most pets if you are going away.”

He added: “It’s a sad reality that some pets will be turned out on the streets this Christmas and we are braced for even more of that happening as the bills are rising, there are presents to buy or the commitment needed to own a pet becomes too much.

"Please never abandon a pet. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.”

Calls to the RSPCA’s Emergency Rescue Line passed pre-Covid levels for the first time in September showing return to normality and with it rising concerns about the welfare of animals. 

With 3,004 abandonment incidents in Wales and England last winter, 1,018 of those during the month of December alone, the charity fears that rising abandonment rates will see more animals facing a bleak winter.

Abandonments have risen by around 20 per cent this year, compared to 2020 figures, and the charity is worried that soaring pet ownership during the pandemic could mean a surge of abandoned dogs and cats as people return to normal working life.

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